The careful craft and design of poetry condenses the amount of text needed to convey information. This is true of all art, in that pieces are often qualitatively judged by how much they “say.” Good works may carry one or two levels of meaning hidden behind their lines, but a masterpiece holds an infinite amount of knowledge masked in the spaces between words. Lettersmiths such as Shakespeare, Keats, and Albee construct in their pieces vast symbolic subsystems that interact within the confines of the work’s consciousness. The actualization of a poet’s conception is likened to the infinity of two mirrors facing each other. As one moves toward a masterpiece (studying it) more layers are revealed and one is able to see the boundless possibilities of its analysis. As is the case with “glass” in Shakespeare’s sonnet number three, one word can flip meanings and resonate with clarity the soul of the masterpiece.In Victorian times the word glass, while still retaining its current day meaning, could easily reference a mirror or reflective surfaces like water. Sonnet number three uses these meanings to show the paradox of legacies. The word appears and is referred to both literally and metaphorically. It is important to realize that the disparaging interpretations that arise from the meanings of “glass” do not necessarily contradict each other. Instead both meanings are acknowledged in a deeper contextual message, and all the images of sonnet number three combine to pose a question between fleshly progeny and artistic legacy.The first mention of the word appears in line one as a strong command to the reader. The poem orders an abrasive self-evaluation and seemingly an alienation from the physical body. “The face thou viewest” (1) holds no possessive articles that would connect a reader to the image even though mentally they may be one and the same. This alienation leads way to line two in which the author, like a persuasive mother, calls for the procreation of the reader. The face in the mirror is precarious both in life and as an alienated object in the poem. Its reparation and conservation come in this encouraged form of youthful renewal. Cleverly this idea is reinforced by a rhyme scheme that links renewal and image stationing with reflection through the rhyme of lines one and three.A quite different interpretation of the quatrain becomes apparent when “glass” is understood in its traditional meaning of translucence. Line one now invokes two figures separated instead of one figure divided. The poem’s consciousness of itself now becomes visible as the reader is told to incite others to action. Both the poem and its orders are cries to the posterity of the self. They exude an importance that may “beguile the world” (4). Additionally each line of the first quatrain holds an extra hanging syllable. Emphasizing the message of the quatrain, the eleven syllable lines make the poem top heavy, which predicts affirmation and not condemnation by the final couplet. Accordingly the self-awareness of the poem and the manhood of the author pull the actual earthly consummation of romantic couples into question. These first four lines may, instead of a plea for human preservation, be a poem’s petitions for its own survival.The second and final mention of the word glass is found in line nine, “Thou art thy mother’s glass.” These lines point towards the lifeline that family brings to an individual. Seeing one’s self in a daughter is life extended. It is with this lively extension that comfort is found in the glass. It is painful to endure time, and with every passing moment the question of heritage lingers. A mirror that displays the markings of family is a window to ancestry. It comforts the old to know that the young live, but line thirteen has clear disdain of this comfort. Those that seek their own manipulated images for relief have impacted the world only through default. Shakespeare sees children as either a metaphorical device or, albeit less likely, as an easy path towards remembrance. More than the required acknowledgement of family, the author wishes for infinity to reach him directly through his words instead of indirectly through his offspring.Shakespeare pleas in his sonnet both to be remembered in the future and for those around him to leave a lasting mark on the world. His sonnet is the child of this desire, and in its lines, children represent works such as their parent poem. In the craft of poetic form a fair uneared womb is unscathed paper waiting for the tillage of a pen. Indeed, the act of advancing one’s works as an eternal legacy is extremely “self-loving.” However, Shakespeare accounts it foolish to destroy the station of his image. The poem reflects its author’s views and opinions and leaves them to tell the ages with an accuracy that children could never attain.The rhyme of the final couplet fits with rhymes in the third quatrain thus reinforcing their connections. The couplet does not overthrow the meanings of the previous images, but instead it serves to warp them from a literal interpretation into a figural one. Lines nine and fourteen are especially linked by their use of the same ending word. Initially they would state that others live in the mind’s eye only. Memory of those lost holds the power of their presence. With the influence of the entire couplet an importance is placed on the quality of one’s life and not the quantity of life’s birthings. Artistic and material works reflect the principles of their authors.In Shakespeare’s sonnet number three the single word “glass” that is mentioned only twice manages to completely overturn the poem from a plea for children to that of symbolic legacy. It is thus that the poem turns its reflection towards the reader. Viewing this sonnet is the same as asking “what have I done with my life?” It is a thing that inspires creativity and reverence for that previously created. One is able to see the care and thought which goes into great works, and there is a care to preserve such things. Just as “thine image dies with thee” (14) is true, so is its opposite. With the death of the author’s reflection so dies the author.BibliographyShakespeare, William. Sonnet 3. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. M. H. Abrams, editor. 2001. pg. 495.
Innumerable poems address the concept of love, with the written battle between positive love and negative love continuing to be waged today. Not surprisingly, there are not, nor would we expect many future poets to write, many poems that juxtapose both the positive and negative characteristics of love. Shakespeare, an unconventional poet, does just that in his Sonnet CXVI. Shakespeare’s initial impression offers a seemingly positive outlook on love, though further insight reveals that his intentions may have been the complete opposite. His explicit details of an ideal love disguise his implicit use of form and vocabulary to show that love is rarely as perfect as we would like it to be.Shakespeare begins the sonnet imperfectly, perhaps as a way of foreshadowing how he later intends to describe love. While traditional sonnets are written in iambic pentameter, the first line of Sonnet CXVI starts with two trochees, exemplified in, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments” (lines 1-2). Ironically, this sentence does “admit impediments” by opening with a contradiction in form. Because Shakespeare emphasizes a “marriage of true minds,” he implies that only in an unblemished relationship can these impediments be forgone. His straying from iambic pentameter indicates hindrances to such perfection, evident even at the start. It is the first implication that love is never completely perfect.Deviances from standard form used to emphasize the deficiencies of love further occur in the sonnet with the violation of traditional metric use. Despite his expected adherence to iambic pentameter in a sonnet, Shakespeare includes a few lines that have eleven syllables rather than ten. These lines are meant to draw the reader’s attention and to emphasize their meaning. He compares love to a star “whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken” (line 8). This raises the idea that the value of love often goes unnoticed and that it is not as revered as it should be. Instead, people tend to measure its extent or magnitude superficially. He implies that while we may long for unconditional love in our lives, we are often sidetracked by the restrictions we place on it. Shakespeare also breaks from form when comparing love to time: “But bears it out even to the edge of doom” (line 12). A hasty reading of the line could be interpreted as the idea that love stands strong amidst disaster and tragedy. A closer look, however, raises the question of why love cannot transcend doom instead of merely meeting it at its edge. Shakespeare’s purpose in his wording could be to bring to light the idea that love is not as invincible as people would like it to be, that it can only withstand up to a certain point before weakening.Shakespeare also implies imperfection in his seemingly happy sonnet through the repeated use of negation. A cursory understanding of the overall sonnet is that love is positively described as unchanging and withstanding. Looking closer at each description, however, reveals that they may not be as positive as we initially thought due to the use of negation. He chooses his words to convey a sense of cynicism. For example, rather than simply saying something along the lines of “love is unchanging,” Shakespeare emphasizes what love is not: “Love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds” (lines 2-3). He also does this when stating that love is not affected by time: “Love’s not Time’s fool” (line 9). This is, in a sense, a more effective way of describing love. More often than not, people are overly concerned with what love is when sometimes the best way to understand it is to look at what it is not. Shakespeare forces people to reexamine their preconceived notions of love, and come to grips with the fact that sometimes what they believe is love, really is not. Words are used to disguise what he actually means, that love can be a damaging facade. On the surface it may appear a lovely and wonderful thing, but behind the pretense is the harsh reality of this emotion.Shakespeare also employs negative language to exemplify love’s flaws. The sonnet is littered with words that are not often associated with love: “impediments,” “remove,” “tempests,” “fool,” “sickle,” “brief,” “doom.” Rather than conjuring ideas and images of romance and affection, the sonnet instead uses words that denote melancholy. The reference to “his bending sickle’s compass come” (line 10), for example, signifies the image of death and the Grim Reaper. Shakespeare also makes a reference to “his brief hours and weeks” (line 11), which leaves ambiguous whether the “his” refers to love or Time. In the case of love, “brief” suggests love is short-lived and fleeting.A master at obscuring alternate meanings behind the apparent, Shakespeare alludes to more unsatisfactory features of love throughout the sonnet. He repeats particular words, but what brings attention to them is the fact that the form of each word changes each time. “Alters” develops from “alteration,” back to “alters” again. “Bends” turns to “bending”, while “remover” becomes “remove.” Shakespeare’s choice of words is not unintentional. These three root words (“alter,” “bend,” and “remove”) are all associated with change, most likely indicating the changing nature of love.The connotations Shakespeare embeds in the sonnet offer a refreshing view of love. Though this may capture particular essences of what love is, it cannot be seen as only one extreme. Shakespeare’s technique of tackling the dual nature of love truly gives readers a sense of the facade it often takes in order to hide its dark side. Just as he uses form and vocabulary in the sonnet, Shakespeare brings to our attention the times we are blinded by the good that we see in the people we love, and our failure to notice anything unpleasant simply because we do not look hard enough.
This sonnet is narrated by a man whose emotions are completely at the mercy of another. Its theme involves the vulnerability of the narrator’s disposition and the power of love. Just when he reaches the lowest point of his depression, the addressee of the poem enters his mind and cures him of his misery.Shakespeare cleverly uses a recurring theme of heaven to help portray the broader theme of the poem. In describing his helplessness, he writes, “I trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries. . .” Here, “bootless” is used to represent the futility of his “cries,” or prayers to heaven. The diction, however, is extremely important in this context. The word “bootless” is also worthy of notice because it represents the hindrance of motion, since it literally means without boots, and without boots, it may become difficult to walk. This is contrasted later with an image in which the narrator likens his soul’s uplifting to “the lark at break of day arising.” Though the lark sings from “sullen earth,” its song goes straight to heaven. The reader may interpret the word “sullen” as “a gloomy ill humor,” “producing a dull, mournful tone,” or “moody silence,” as seen from the NED. The latter two definitions are more applicable to our discussion; they define the contrast between the mournful tone or the silence of the earth and the bright song of the lark. In the same way the lark’s song is unfettered, when the narrator thinks about this person, his state “sings hymns to heaven’s gate.” Whereas before, in his dejected state, his prayers were futile and motionless, now his prayers are mobile, and, therefore answerable. The image of the lark is common in Shakespeare’s works. Indeed, in act three, scene five of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the two lovers are speaking of whether the song they have just heard was that of the nightingale or that of the lark. Romeo replies to Juliet, “It was the lark, the herald of the morn. . .” Therefore, the lark also signifies the coming of morning, an image which further enhances the narrator’s spiritual ascent.The theme of the sonnet also emerges from a consistent motif of terms indicating affluence, which is suggested by the presence of words such as “rich,” “possessed,” “wealth,” and “kings.” The NED holds that the seventeenth-century meaning of the word “wealth” was spiritual well-being. Shakespeare uses this theme in an ironic setting, since these words are, in fact, used to help characterize the narrator’s misfortune. The second quatrain focuses on how the narrator envies the strengths of other men. He is in such a dejected and “outcast state,” that he desires “. . .this man’s art and that man’s scope. . .” The NED tells us that in the Elizabethan period, “art” meant any kind of skill, and that “scope” could be taken to mean “reach or range of mental activity.” The line which reads, “With what I most enjoy contented least. . .” is the best indication that the narrator has reached a low point. He is literally saying that he is in such a bad disposition that he now hates what he once enjoyed most. As we read on, this image is contrasted with the statement in the last couplet which reads: “For thy sweet love rememb’red such wealth brings/ that then I scorn to change my state with kings.” In other words, the thought of this person makes him so happy that he would not change his fortune with any other man not even the richest of kings. This beautiful language, especially pleasing to the ear because of the iambic pentameter, summarizes the theme in the last couplet, as is customary in Shakespeare’s sonnets.The turning point between his state of depression and his uplifting realization is represented at the beginning of the third quatrain. He writes: “Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee and then my state. . .” The diction in these lines is most likely not an accident. The NED defines “haply” as “by chance or by accident.” When in the midst of his depression, the narrator only thinks of the person by chance. This is also visible when he writes, “For thy sweet love rememb’red . . .” because the word “rememb’red” suggests that he was not thinking of the person beforehand. This, to me, gives the impression that the addressee has been somehow temporarily removed from his life. For he never mentions the origin of his melancholy depicted in the first two quatrains, and the reader is left to conjecture what I have hereby mentioned. I also believe, however, that it is no mistake that “haply” is a close neighbor of “happily.” Thus, the diction allows the theme to be revealed through a turning point, or change in texture.
Many men in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries composed sequences of sonnets about women whom they loved. William Shakespeare’s incomplete sonnet sequence is among the genre’s most acclaimed. Most authors embellished their women’s physical characteristics, but Shakespeare’s 130th sonnet states that his mistress lacks most of the qualities other men wrongly praise their women for possessing, such as eyes like the sun or lips as red as coral. While Shakespeare criticizes his lover’s physical traits, he believes his ³love as rare as any² and displays subtle disdain for relationships ³belied by false comparison.² Through this work Shakespeare tells the reader that true love recognizes imperfections and feels devotion regardless of flaws.Like most of Shakespeare’s work, his 130th sonnet has meaning on several levels. First, he commentates on love as opposed to lust. A lustful man would focus on pleasing corporal characteristics, such as white breasts, red lips, and fragrant breath; however, Shakespeare’s women’s ³breast are dun,² her lips not nearly as red as coral, and her breath less delightful than many perfumes. Because Shakespeare recognizes her bodily shortcomings, he uses his true love to contrast lust.Additionally, Shakespeare subtly chastises the common practice of exaggerating feminine beauty in sonnets. Contrasting conventional form with an anti-Petrarchan sonnet, one that states what the women lacks instead of what she has, Shakespeare hints that he disagrees with the common practice of praising a women for characteristics she may, but probably does not, possess. When Shakespeare ends the sonnet commenting on ³false compare,² he basically means that a man truly in love should not falsify his lovers attributes. Since Shakespeare believes love should see flaws but be able to overlook them, he disagrees with sonnets that dismiss and distort the muse’s defects.Finally, in his deepest meaning, Shakespeare implies all people should accept imperfections they can not change. Shakespeare’s woman cannot control her cheeks’ natural color or her dark hair, but Shakespeare loves her in spite of her imperfections. Perhaps, through this Shakespeare wishes to convey that all people should love themselves even though they are not perfect. Shakespeare uses his sonnet to differentiate between love and lust, criticize writers who fabricate their women’s splendor, and tell readers to accept what they can not change.To communicate his many meanings, Shakespeare uses several literary devices. Most obviously, Shakespeare uses rhyme and rhythm to make the poem more aesthetically pleasing. The consistency of rhyme scheme (ABABCDCDEFEFGG) and rhythm underscore Shakespeare’s unwavering feelings toward his lover.In addition to rhythm and rhyme, Shakespeare uses comparisons to tell describe how his woman is not. For example with a simile, he states that his ³mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.² Shakespeare also employs metaphors such as ³black wires grow on her head.² Essentially, every line of the poem except for the couplet describes the women through a comparison. These comparisons enable the reader to vividly picture what his mistress’ does not look like. Shakespeare uses literary devices to aid the reader’s comprehension.Overall, Shakespeare does an excellent job of expressing his ideas. Most importantly, the sonnet does not blatantly present its theme; instead, the sonnet veils its premise to ensure its integrity as a work in the genre. If Shakespeare had simply said that love should recognize and accept imperfections, stylistically, the sonnet would be weak because its pattern would be inconsistent with the other sonnets in the series, all of which describe Shakespeare’s relationship with his mistress, his feelings for her, or her attributes.Additionally, the sonnet’s unconventionality successfully draws the audience into the literature. While sonnet 130 follows the basic style of sonnet writing, it subtly criticizes the woman by comparing her to wonderful things and stating her inadequacies. Readers wonder why Shakespeare would highlight the flaws of the woman he loves so they hypothesize his intent. When writing actively involves the audience, as Sonnet 130 does, it sets itself apart from other works that simply speak to the reader. In a sense, Sonnet 130 is similar to the allegory of the cave because it has a profound meaning that the reader must search for himself.While the sonneteer excellently draws his audience’s attention, he also presents an exceptional breadth of meanings. The writing’s first meaning of differentiating between love and lust is relatively simple, and almost all readers would understand his commentary on the deadly sin. His second meaning is a more complex literary critique. Only those familiar with sonnets and their characteristic exaggeration would comprehend his censure of misrepresenting the muse. Finally, his last meaning, the most universal yet most concealed, displays his full skill as an author. All readers can relate to Shakespeare’s third implication that everyone should accept his faults that are beyond his control and love himself despite of them. Readers are less likely to recognize the last allusion because it does not tie as directly to sonnets in general or love as the others. Shakespeare’s ability to have diverse meanings at many levels for all members of his audience not only substantiates his skill but also mirrors some of his plays such as Macbeth, in which parts speak to every member of the audience. In Macbeth, the groundlings laughed at the porter’s crude humor while royalty found his witches entertaining. Like many good writings, sonnet 130 has meanings that speak to every level of society.Finally, for a stylistic dénouement Shakespeare effectively uses literary devices such as rhythm, rhyme, simile, and metaphor to enliven his words. The reader can visualize what Shakespeare’s woman is not like because of his colorful language, such as ³My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.² The sound-oriented devices Compositely, Shakespeare does a wonderful job in his 130th sonnet.Retrospectively, Shakespeare’s 130th sonnet is most significant because it presents a model of how true love should be. While the sonneteer appears to criticize his mistress for her imperfection, but it actually expresses the concept that true love recognizes flaws and adores in spite of them. In its 14 lines, this poem imparts three diverse meanings at different depths. Most obviously, the poem commentates on love versus lust. All readers in Shakespeare’s time would comprehend his commentary on the deadly sin. A bit deeper, the sonnet is a literary critique of other sonnets’ embellishment of the woman’s qualities. Finally, most profoundly, Shakespeare’s 130th sonnet tells all readers to love themselves despite their flaws and to accept their attributes which they cannot change. Shakespeare uses literary devices, such as rhyme, rhythm, and comparison, to highlight his ideas. Finally, this poem is superb because of Shakespeare’s veiled allusions and consistency with sonnet style despite unconventional ideas. While sonnets were fashionable in Shakespeare’s time, this writer’s style took his poem far beyond the trend.
In sonnet 146, Shakespeare presents the battle between depth and surface in different ways. The theme and message of the poem point consistently to a contradictory and difficult relationship between the inner and outer realms of a human being. The soul versus the body is the most obvious manifestation of this theme. But beyond this literal depiction of two forces at odds lurks a darker, deeper idea. There isn’t simply a difference between the outside and inside of a person, but an inevitable discrepancy. There is the presence of failure on one side, which renders the battle unequal and creates frustration. Subtle characteristics of Shakespeare’s language and attitude towards form paint a clear picture of this failure for the reader. In the language of the poem, the use of cold monetary references creates a parallel battle. At moments, Shakespeare shows us just how this outer mask of words fails to communicate the workings of the interior, which is the writer’s pure intent, the message from the soul. Shakespeare also betrays his frustration with form, which is essentially the corporeal shape forced upon his meaning. Essentially the poem itself, in its inability to truly communicate, becomes another battle in progress, another portrayal of a flimsy surface imprisoning its own core being.The sonnet carefully examines its subject in terms of two spheres, and clearly marks differences between them. A strong sense of surface versus depth is made clear right away. When Shakespeare opens his poem with “Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,” (l.1) his purpose of distinction is achieved in several ways. By addressing his soul as a separate entity, he is already operating under the assumption that there is an essential depth that is its own independent force. The term “sinful earth” could be a whispered reminder of the earthy realm, always standing opposed to the pure heavens. Beyond dividing himself in two, Shakespeare tells the reader who to cheer for. The description of his soul as “poor” immediately shows us where his preference lies. This cooing opening also instills compassion in the reader. We enter the poem feeling sorry for this abused interior. Even though his body is immediately rendered less worthy, it is on the offensive, and the victimized soul must learn how to fight back. The second line, with “rebel pow’rs that [the soul] array” (l.2) even goes so far as to place Shakespeare’s entire being in a state of perpetual war. Despite its crucial role as the “centre” of his being, the soul of the speaker is the victim of a constant ambush. Within the first two lines of the poem, an intense conflict has been established.Shakespeare continues to embellish this conflict imagery, loading more and more meaning into his ideas and metaphors. The role of the exterior quickly expands, transforming from a simple cage into a pitiful foe. The body is not only a “sinful earth” (l.1) but also his “outward walls,”(l.4) his “fading mansion,” (l.6) and finally the “servant” of his soul (l.9). All of the adjectives here are subtly building a hierarchy. The existence of “outward,” “fading” and “servant” all refer to better states that remain unnamed. “Outward” requires an inward, just as “servant” requires a master. To be “fading,” the original, better state before deterioration is alluded to. The soul is being described by proxy. By so negatively characterizing the body, Shakespeare also creates its other, better half, too pure to be named or described. There is not simply an endless battle between good and evil, but the unjust imprisonment of the worthier force in an inadequate form. There is a discrepancy here. The first quatrain explains this in its last two lines: “Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth?/Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?” (l.4). Here, the frustration of the soul is solidified. It is not only poor but lonely, and in a state of suffering. And this suffering is hidden to the outside world, which is a horrible state of frustration. When Shakespeare concludes that to “Within be fed,” one must “without be rich no more” (l.12), the reader can agree, having witnessed the impossible discrepancy of soul and body . His interior substance is at constants odds with his feeble surface, and he must actually sacrifice one to help the other. This is an intense and unfair battle happening beneath the surface, just as the poem has intense themes behind its skin of cold monetary references.The choice of terms involving commerce and money is a distinct one, most obvious and frequent in the second quatrain. The central lines, the heart of a poem addressing the soul and mortality, are occupied with petty allusions to profit and loss. A reader cannot ignore the connection between the words “cost,” (l.5) “lease,” (l.5) “spend,” (l.6) “inheritors,” (l.7) “charge,” (l.8) all found in this quatrain. Here, Shakespeare treats the battle like more of a financial argument, as he councils his soul in money management. He demands “Why so large cost, having so short a lease,/Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?” (ll.5-6). Again, the image of the victimized soul returns, but here it is simply bad business that imprisons this force. This monetary metaphor was introduced in the first quatrain, which demanded “Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,/Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?” (ll.3-4). Here, the soul is depicted as taking a loss to control the appearance of the outside. This is a situation that could be applied to the poet attempting to communicate his unique vision in the strict fourteen lines of a sonnet, with the limited capacity of the English language. The word “painting” (in the lines just quoted) signals this connection. The end of the poem, with its strange couplet, is another moment where Shakespeare expresses his frustration with the concept of beautifying the outside.The last lines of this sonnet distinctly bring mortality into the forefront of the poem. This is by no means a new theme. The reference of “so short a lease,” (l.5) and the whimpering “Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,/Eat up thy charge?” (l.7) planted reminders of the body’s one weakness firmly in the second quatrain. In the third quatrain, Shakespeare even recommends that his soul use this flaw, mortality of its corporeal form, to ultimately triumph. He suggests, in one of the moments when he converses directly with the soul, “Then, soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss,/And let that pine to aggravate thy store” (ll.9-10). It would seem that the speaker has made his point, drawing mortality in as the body’s ultimate downfall and again, creating the soul’s purity by indirectly giving it immortality. But the couplet at the end, with its eerie sing-song symmetry, shows us a poet who does not feel that he has adequately explained. Suddenly, the reader is pounded with the word “Death,” repeated four times: “So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,/And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then” (ll.13-14). One can picture Shakespeare throwing his hands up in frustration, deciding to just say it, outright and direct. Like the soul that is honest and pure, battling with the form that carries it, the message of the poem has been dwelling beneath an inadequate surface. The decision to repeat the same word four times shows us the limiting quality of expression through words. The candid, mocking tone of the speaker is surprising when compared to his careful self-reflection through metaphor in everything proceeding these lines. This sudden burst of awkward, raw truth comes like a dying breath.Although the entire poem shows us the inadequacy of surface in communicating depth, this final expression does indeed triumph. The body, though less pure, though sinful and inadequate, will ultimately drive the soul into oblivion. The sentiments of reader and speaker are complex after this final thought. Life is no longer the simple black and white battle of good versus evil, of soul versus body. It is simply fleeting, and Shakespeare finds himself drawn inevitably to that conclusion. The twelve lines spent moaning about souls and bodies are swept aside by the greatest force of all, the two spheres equalized in the face of their own inevitable end. Although he shows us the battle along the way, even choosing sides and judging its terms, this battle is relegated to the side of more important themes in a last breath. The frustrations of life, the constant struggle to communicate and paint oneself, should not be ignored. But they are hardly important in this universe, where they lie along one grand path, leading simply and always to Death.
The swelling energy and particularization of imagery of season, time, and light both complement and counter the speaker’s fading body in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73. Moving from metaphors of abstract bleakness to those of specific vitality and passion within and across each quatrain, Shakespeare’s sonnet draws on the paradox of his decaying body that houses a still-breathing soul to fashion yet another parallel metaphor, that of his relationship with his youthful lover.The first quatrain examines the sonnet’s most general metaphoric description of the speaker’s aging body, Autumn. Shakespeare fails to specify even what season he is referring to in the opening line; it is known only as “That time of the year thou mayst in me behold” (1). That “me” comes after “thou” and near the end of the line also signifies the lack of detail the speaker places on himself in the first quatrain. In the second and third quatrains this is inverted, as “In me thou seest” becomes a more insistent and refined initiation (5, 9). Shakespeare continues the conceit of subject refinement as he first describes Autumn’s “yellow leaves” as simply existing, then concedes there may be “none,” then finally settles on “few” (2). This current of definition develops two themes, that Shakespeare believes he still has a few leaves left on his tree of life, and that the poetic eye of his lover can amplify the energy of even a bare tree. Still, the monosyllabic, caesura-laden intonations of the line cannot hide the speaker’s automaton-like march to death.Shakespeare finishes his description of the leaves, which “hang/ Upon those boughs which shake against the cold” (2-3). “Hang” is both a technical and a metaphoric enjambment that magnifies the speaker’s dependency and physical weakness. Yet even in this comparison of feebleness another transition advances the line from the stale and general to the energetic (albeit a flailing energy) and particular: we move from motionless, commonplace leaves to “those boughs,” distinct ones, which “shake against the cold” and do their best to fight off death. “Bare ruined choirs” is an allusion to the monasteries ransacked by Henry VIII, and even in this line of mortality there is an accumulation of passion; from the first word of “Bare” to the last word “sang,” the speaker’s juxtaposition of man-made desolation with the absence of natural vitality paradoxically grows in passion as he bemoans the dying around him. This propels him into the next quatrain in which, as noted before, he immediately announces himself as the subject, thus further intensifying his and his lover’s scrutiny of his fading.Indeed, fading is the ostensible metaphor used in the second quatrain. Shakespeare transfers from the most broad, season, to a more exclusive day, just as he moved from “yellow leaves” to “those boughs.” And, again, he alters his definition of the time of day from an approximate “twilight of such day” to the more descriptive and precise line, “As after sunset fadeth in the west” (5-6). The intensification of poetic energy coupled with his physical dulling now takes on a self-loathing tone; whereas before his lover “mayst behold,” another hazy, inexact line, now he definitely “seest” (5). The powerlessness the speaker feels in his struggle grows here. In the first quatrain his boughs shook against the cold choirs; now he allows his light to fade: “Which by and by black night doth take away,/ Death’s second self that seals up all in rest” (7-8). The “by and by” implies the passage of time and his passive role in the diminishing of light, while the strong alliteration of “b’s” sound spiteful, as if he watches night rob him of his life from the sidelines. “Death’s second self,” or sleep, also uses alliteration to great effect, the slippery “s’s” echoing his poisonous descent into death. Yet his increased inactivity in the matter continues the paradoxical theme of sinking imagery with stirring lyrical energy”Death’s second self that seals up all in rest” certainly has more fire beneath its words than do the original yellow leaves. Shakespeare makes more explicit this connection in the next quatrain as he carves a final metaphor which explains the duality, that of a soul suffocating under the weight of his failing body.Shakespeare reprises the “In me thou seest” opener, and its repetitiveness now seems more urgent and, pushing the theme, more specified (9). Now his lover’s eye is ever more finely-tuned, able to see the “glowing of such fire” after lyrics of dark vagueness from the first two quatrains (9). The fire, Shakespeare’s metaphor for his soul that flickers with its dying embers, nonetheless contains some animation in the midst of “his youth’s” expired “ashes” (10). This ties in the previous oppositions of animation suppressed by lethargyhis soul is “Consumed with that which it was nourished by,” or, in other words, suffocates under its body’s dead weight (12). This quatrain of expiration is one of the few that deviates from rigid iambic meter; “As [weak] the [weak] death- [strong] bed [strong]” follows a pyrrhic with a spondee to emphasize the inevitable fatality, for we are told that the fire “must expire” (10). The rough verbal shifts of “with that which it was” stress the mechanical manner in which his once vibrant soul now perishes. The work of declaring the speaker’s embattled soul’s clash with his degenerating body is done; in typical Shakespearean sonnet fashion, he saves the couplet for a conclusion that reflects upon both himself and his audience.Shakespeare changes from “thou seest” to “This thou perceiv’st,” and the effect carries on the progression of his lover’s eye sharpening from perhaps beholding to seeing and observing and now to perception and understanding (13). Shakespeare’s tone in the couplet is grateful”which makes thy love more strong”; that his lover can disregard the corpse the speaker’s body has disintegrated into is a source of awe for him (13). The contradiction in their respective views of his body, then, matches the previous contradictions of living soul and dying body. This strength that his lover affords the speaker brings new meaning to the line “Consumed with that which it was nourished by.” Perhaps Shakespeare fed off his lover’s love to the point when his own discontentment with his aging outweighed the youthful support he received. This, then, adds a twist to the couplet, and the final line, “To love that well, which thou must leave ere long” resonates only partly of gratitude, and mostly of self-deprecation and bewilderment at his lover’s fidelity. However, this seems less likely than the conclusion the speaker has drawn, that he is fortunate to have someone for whom a lover’s bodily flaws only impel him to fan the flames of his lover’s slightly lambent soul. As with many of Shakespeare’s sonnets, the couplet (save one word) is composed of monosyllabic, Anglo-Saxon words which drive his point home with finality.Shakespeare’s sonnets, taken in a sequence, touch on many themes, namely those of Time, Love, and Poetry. The poetry is not an explicit subject in “Sonnet 73,” Shakespeare’s soul, it could easily be argued, is poetry, and he wrote the sonnets just before his retirement to Stratford (and seven years before his death). He was forty-five years old when he penned them, much more ancient in those days then now, and he may have felt his poetic soul had been spent. Of course, most poets would gladly trade their living poetic souls for a fraction of Shakespeare’s dead one, but the high standards he held himself to seem outlandish. Only his lover can fill in the beauty he feels he has lost on his own; that it is his lover who “must leave ere long” and not Shakespeare illustrates the power his youthful companion held over him. No wonder, then, that in his declining years, the great poet held on dearly to one whose eternal summer would never fade.Works Cited:Abrams et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, sixth edition, vol. 1. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993.
Shakespeare’s iconic sonnet 29 is a sonnet that embodies the superficial nature of humanity, both intrinsically and extrinsically. The sonnet begins with the speaker denouncing his current state, which is quite unfavorable, as he “beweep[s] [his] outcast state” (line 2). However, the speaker continues to exalt his lover as the only reason he is able to carry on through his unfortunate circumstances. This serves as a bold endorsement of both love and intrinsic values over extrinsic materialism. All in all, this sonnet appears to speak to the value of love in maintaining one’s sanity when faced with dire circumstances. However, a more detailed reading of the sonnet reveals that this is not the case at all and the sonnet lends itself to an entirely different theme. In a casual reading, the reader experiences a more jubilant poem in which the speaker overcomes his material poverty through his love. Shakespeare, through, traditional sonnet structure and blatant tone shifts, creates the impression that this sonnet speaks to the theme of the overcoming power of love. However, this is not an accurate reading of the sonnet. In fact, the speaker is not to be taken for his word, and Shakespeare’s speaker is not as noble as he appears to be. Shakespeare, through simile, imagery, traditional Shakespearean sonnet structure, characterization of the speaker, and apostrophe, creates a speaker that appears, on the whole, very inept and manic depressive. This, in turn, creates an atmosphere in which the reader is to be inherently suspicious of the speaker’s account. By doing this, Shakespeare provides commentary that links love to both madness and depression, thereby suggesting that these are inherent qualities of love itself. Due to this, Shakespeare speaks to the unnecessary nature of love in terms of human success.
In a casual reading of this sonnet, one may note that Shakespeare uses rudimentary stylistic and literary devices that coyly mask the sonnet’s true meaning. Through the use of traditional sonnet structure, Shakespeare creates obvious shifts in tone that are detectable by even the most basic reader. The initial eight lines, the octave, are devoted to creating a scene void of happiness and wealth. Shakespeare writes, “When, in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes, / I all alone beweep my outcast state” (lines 1-2). Right away the reader is keen to the speaker’s material poverty and social outcast, as well as the distressed state this causes him. Shakespeare continues, “Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, / featured like him, like him with friends possessed” (lines 5-6). Here, the reader is made aware of the speaker’s desire for material possessions and success. However, the final six lines shift the tone and theme of the poem dramatically in order to portray the seeming power of love as Shakespeare writes, “For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings / That then I scorn to change my state with kings” (lines 13-14). These lines contain the apparent meaning of the poem. While he is distressed and poor, the speaker, expressly because of his love, tells the reader that he would not change his position with a king. This is hard to believe seeing as the speaker was only just exclaiming his want for material success. However, because the speaker has love, all else is semantic and irrelevant to the speaker’s state of happiness. Author James Winny describes this as, “the poet’s sudden exhilaration of spirit as he recalls the friendship that outweighs his discontent” (78). Because of this blatant shift in tone from cursing his misfortune to praising his love’s redemptive powers, Shakespeare emphasizes the apparent celebratory nature of his love. Therefore, the sonnet appears to speak to the idea that love is far more powerful than any extrinsic possession.
Also, the characterization of the speaker is essential in unpacking the poem. Shakespeare’s speaker “surmounts envy and self-contempt” (Stirling 64). Because the speaker is so shamefully aware of his state, the reader naturally feels empathy and pity for the speaker. However, while the speaker is a depressing character, the reader cannot help but feel envy for him due to the happiness he derives from love. This most undesirable character has seemed to capture the most intrinsically elusive quality that is craved by all men: love. Therefore, despite his material disparities, the speaker becomes an enviable character that embodies the best side of love.
However, this is not an accurate depiction of the speaker. There exists in the sonnet grammatical and stylistic abnormalities that point to a speaker who is manic-depressive rather than driven by love. An analysis of lines 10-12, which reads “Haply I think on thee, and then my state, / Like to the lark at break of day arising / From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate,” reveals this insanity. Originally, the verse is written so that the reader naturally thinks that the lark is the object doing the singing, which creates a “liberating” and “celebratory” simile (Hammond 31). In this reading, the lark succeeds in his song, which corresponds with the speaker succeeding in his love. However, a closer reading reveals that it is not the lark that is singing; rather, it is the reader’s state that is doing the singing (Bernhard 2). In this line, the speaker’s state refers to his mindset. Shakespeare has made the speaker’s mindset, which despises his current state, abundantly clear to the reader. This simile actually reads “Haply I think on thee, and then my state, / … sings hymns at heaven’s gate.” (lines 10,12).
The idea that the speaker’s discontented state would be singing to heaven is a most peculiar simile that requires further analysis. The term “heaven” is used multiple times in the sonnet, and analyzing both instances is required for a complete understanding their meaning. The first occurrence of heaven imagery occurs when Shakespeare writes “And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries” (line 3). Here heaven is personified as “deaf” and subsequently cannot answer, much less hear, the speaker’s desperate cries. This use of auditory imagery is perplexing when it is paired with the second use of heaven imagery in which the speaker’s state “sings hymns at heaven’s gate” (Line 12). These two examples create a dichotomy that destroys the speaker’s credibility. The speaker describes heaven as “deaf” but also sings hymns to it. This represents a wild change in the speaker’s mood that is completely unwarranted because there has been no change in his circumstances (Bernhard). This sudden and abrupt change in attitude is suspicious in nature simply because nothing has happened. The speaker’s mood has changed without the appearance of any stimulus, which is most unusual. Seeing this to be true, the reader can reasonably assume that the speaker’s state of unhappiness is purely mental, that is, the speaker “wills his misery” (Bernhard). The speaker’s state is still unfavorable; however, the speaker’s attitude towards his unfortunate state is exaggerated, which suggests a self-deprecating, manic depressive state.
Continuing with this theme it is odd to note the speaker’s love’s complete absence from the sonnet. This is odd because of the “almost religious nature of his beloved” (Mcrae). By using the term ‘heaven’ twice in the poem, Shakespeare creates a religious undertone that relies on the religious connotation of the term ‘heaven.’ This description applies directly to the speaker’s lover, since it is she who answers the speaker’s cries for meaning and glory. However, by assuming a religious presence, the lover also assumes a ubiquitous nature caused by further connotation of religious deities. Because she is characterized as god-like, the reader naturally expects her to be present in every situation, which she is not. This use of apostrophe begs the question of where the speaker’s loved one is during the speaker’s continual mood swings. It is likely, at this point, that the loved one is simply a manifestation of the speaker’s manic depressive state and is oblivious to the speaker. Considering the speaker’s state of poverty, it is entirely possible that the loved one is imagined in order to aid the speaker in coping with his harsh reality. At this point, the speaker has lost all credibility with the reader and cannot be trusted. It can therefore be assumed that the speaker does not have the love that he claims to have and is simply a completely pitiful character who is unable to cope with his circumstances.
At this point, the deconstruction of the speaker’s testimony is complete and the sonnet’s true meaning can be analyzed. Shakespeare’s speaker has proven his ineptness in providing credible testimony. In terms of love, this reading of the poem pairs love with madness and depression where the first reading pairs love with jubilation and triumph. Seeing as the speaker is, at this point, an untrustworthy character, the reader cannot take his words as truth. The speaker has been exposed as manic depressive in his claims of love. Therefore, Shakespeare’s poem pairs love with depression and insanity, thereby suggesting that these are inherent qualities of love. Furthermore, this sonnet provides commentary on the manic depressive cycle, which is described as self-deprecating and exaggerating. Consider how the speaker’s condition might have changed had he not exaggerated his circumstances. It is reasonable to assume that a proper perspective on his situation would have enabled him to better cope with his adversity (Bernhard 3). This, in turn, would have made it more likely that he would have been able to escape the poverty that was his own. However, because the speaker was manic depressive, he created a situation that was insurmountable and impossible for him to confront. This drove him to create an insipid love that does not actually exist. In this way, Shakespeare also compares love to an inability to cope with one’s problems. The first reading of this poem suggested that love enabled the speaker to overcome his material poverty and live a life of meaning and purpose. Once this is proven to be invalid, the reader must consider the true role of love in life. Seeing as love has already been compared to depression and insanity, it can be stated that love holds no merit in overcoming one’s obstacles. Certainly one would not argue that depression and madness are essential qualities to being successful in life. Therefore, due to the fact that depression and madness are characteristics of love, it can be said that love is not a component of success in life. This gives credence to a broader, more cynical interpretation of love. If one’s aim in life is to be successful, either intrinsically or extrinsically, then love should be of no importance to that person. In modern culture, individuals seek to be successful in numerous ways, and love is often at the center of individuals’ subjective definition of success. However, Shakespeare makes the argument in this poem that love is, in fact, not a component of success and therefore humans should not pursue love to obtain success. This is done through creating a speaker who, on the surface, appears to have obtained the culturally accepted version of success. That is, the speaker has love, which holds great value in modern society. However, the speaker’s words are the result of being manic depressive, and the reader soon discovers that the speaker does not actually have love. Love, according to Shakespeare, is an insipid construct invented by feeble minds in order to placate their own failures.
Beauty, irrefutably, is a common theme throughout the Shakespearean sonnets. Generally, Shakespeare’s love of beauty is expressed with regard to an undefined person, or muse. Nowhere is the beauty of Shakespeare’s muse expressed more strongly than throughout his Sonnet 18. As tribute to the magnificence of his muse’s beauty, which is described as more glorious than even nature’s seasons, Shakespeare makes a point of supplementing this beauty by preserving and immortalizing it through the lines of Sonnet 18.Before Shakespeare’s muse, or “Dark Lady’s” beauty can be immortalized, its grandeur must first be fully understood. Shakespeare wastes no time in undertaking the task conveying this beauty, and strategically does so through his first line, which he phrases as a question. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” It is clear that answering this question will be the Sonnet’s purpose, and Shakespeare begins to do so immediately, with line 2: “Thou art more lovely and more temperate.” This line not only answers the question put forth by line 1, but begins to set the poem’s theme: that Shakespeare’s Dark Lady is indeed more beautiful and magnificent than the seasons, namely summer. This theme also represents the thesis of the poem’s rhetorical dialectic form.Lines 3 and 4 continue along this vein of thought, as Shakespeare describes the month of May as having “Rough winds,” and “summer’s lease” as being “too short.” The words “rough,” and, “short,” carry definite negative connotations, which evidence the fact that Shakespeare leans away from casting summer as being as pleasant or beautiful as his muse, and leans toward comparatively casting his muse in a more favorable light.Following this pattern, lines 5 and 6 refer directly to the summer sun, or “eye of heaven” as sometimes “too hot,” or often as having “his gold complexion dimmed.” It is no coincidence that Shakespeare chooses the words, “dim,” and “too hot,” – which have relatively opposite denotations – to describe the sun. The sun, to Shakespeare, as is implied by this noteworthy diction, is very inconsistent. Shakespeare implies that it is too often either at one unpleasant extreme or the other.It is this thought of inconsistency that guides the reader into Shakespeare’s next two lines. Line 7 states that, “every fair from fair sometime declines;” which is to say that everything that is beautiful, or “fair,” will at some point fall, or “decline,” from its beauty. By comparing his muse with the season of summer, Shakespeare implies that both are beautiful, regardless of whether his Dark Lady is the more beautiful. Basically, through lines 7 and 8, Shakespeare points out the fact that no beauty is forever; and henceforth that neither the beauty of the seasons, nor the beauty of his muse can last. This thought presents the antithesis of the Sonnet’s dialectic form: if Shakespeare’s Dark Lady is more beautiful and magnificent than the seasons, how is it possible that they should both “By…nature’s changing course,” undergo a decline of beauty?Alas, it is not possible, and such is the reason that Shakespeare chooses to supplement his Dark Lady’s beauty with the immortality that is born out of the lines of his verse. Shakespeare begins introducing this immortality – the synthesis of the Sonnet’s dialectic form – in line 9, at the same time creating the poem’s volta, or dramatic change in tone. The tone shifts from that of one that speaks of beauty as something which will “decline,” to that of one which speaks of beauty as, “eternal summer,” which “shall not fade.” Shakespeare describes his muse in line 10 as someone who will never “lose possession” of the “fair,” or beauty, that she “ow’st,” or owns. Line 11 takes things to the next step, and makes the point that Shakespeare’s muse, along with her beauty, shall never die. Death is indeed portrayed as cocky or arrogant by Shakespeare – as a force that would “brag,” that Shakespeare’s muse, “wand’rest in his shade.” This line makes a direct contrast with Shakespeare’s earlier description of a sun that is “too hot,” or, too bright (line 5). The beauty of Shakespeare’s muse will neither shine too brightly, as the summer sun, nor be cast into the obscure shadow of death. It lies in a zone of happy medium, somewhere between light and dark, perfectly exemplifying the duality of which true beauty is composed.The power of this beauty is derived most solely from the fact that it has been, to this day, preserved as immortal. To speak subjectively, if Sonnet 18 was anything less than timeless, the beauty of Shakespeare’s muse would have, by current day, been entirely forgotten. It seems that Shakespeare knew this fact, as he expresses it through the extremely cleverly written line 12: “When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.” Through this line, Shakespeare seems to be saying that the beauty of his woman grows constantly larger, running parallel to time, forming two “eternal lines,” that extend into infinity. At the same time, line 12 can be interpreted as referring to the actual composition of Sonnet 18: a series of “lines” of verse that will last in reader’s minds forever.It is this second interpretation that is most strongly supported by the Sonnet’s couplet:So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.The couplet concludes sonnet 18 perfectly, with the complete synthesis of the poem’s dialectic form. “As long as men are alive, and can read,” Shakespeare proclaims to his muse, “they will read this poem, imagine your beauty, and henceforth preserve your immortality.” One might interpret Sonnet 18’s final lines as over-confident – as Shakespeare claiming that his poem will be read forever – but indeed, he has thus far turned out to be quite right.
William Shakespeare puts forth his definition of what makes love true in his untitled sonnet beginning with “Let me not to the marriage of true minds.” Shakespeare does not deny other views of love, but instead insists on a certain characteristic of love: love is rigid and crucial to endure life.With the very first line of the Sonnet, Shakespeare indirectly acknowledges there may be obstacles in true love: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments,” (lines 1-2). By recognizing it is possible to have “impediments” in a sound relationship, Shakespeare may be seeking to grab the attention of the audience by bringing forth a realistic love that is attainable. Additionally, marrying true “minds” rather than merely two people suggest Shakespeare carefully picked “minds” for a deeper meaning. It is possible the word “minds” was used to illustrate the thought that goes behind true love. Without thought, a person would be more primitive, and with primal instincts come physical urges and desires. Shakespeare’s word selection proposes love is more than physical, it is reasoned through.The next part of the Shakespeare’s sonnet expresses the unyielding characteristic of love. The line “Love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds,” (lines 2-3) creates a sense of stability for love since Shakespeare argues love is false if it changes with a change in situation. Shakespeare continues on to say love is not true if it “bends with the remover to remove,” (line 4). Shakespeare describes love as strong and rigid. Shakespeare describes true love as stubborn in a way. The lack of flexibility he brings up could contradict the analogy Sophocles creates in his play Antigone about the arrogant actions of Creon: “You’ve seen trees by a raging winter torrent / How many sway with the flood and salvage every twig, / But not the stubborn—they’re ripped out, roots and all / Bend or break,”(lines 797-800). By contrasting the nature of love to the personality of Creon, Shakespeare creates distinction between the stubbornness of love and other embodiments of stubbornness. Shakespeare even appears to mirror the work Sophocles in the next section of his sonnet. Instead of the inhibiting nature of stubbornness set forth in Antigone, Shakespeare makes the stubbornness of love encouraging. Shakespeare writes “[Love] looks on tempests and is never shaken,” (line 6) which means love withstands troubled times – the opposite fate of the rigid trees Sophocles describes. The line also stands out for its change in meter. The line breaks away from the iambic pentameter form of a sonnet by ending the line with an anapest. The inclusion of an extra unstressed syllable could emphasize steadfastness as important to the overall meaning of love.Shakespeare continues on to metaphorically compare love to the North Star: “[Love] is the star to every wandering bark, / Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken”(lines 7-8). Shakespeare considers love a guide for all barks (metaphorically people) through life. The comparisons between the North Star persist because the guidance they give is priceless, whether it be the successful navigation by a ship’s captain or happy life with a loved one. A caesura divides the ideas that the worth of love is unknown, from the suggestion that love can still be measured. The North Star can be measured to determine position, while love can be measured to determine its magnitude through actions that express affection.The next section of the sonnet describes love’s ability to stand time when other aspect of life cannot. Shakespeare states that love does not break down over time like beauty. “Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks / Within his binding sickle’s compass come,”(lines 9-10). By stating true love does not fade with beauty, Shakespeare considers true love to be more than just attraction to looks because love is deeper than the shallowness of appearance. Time becomes analogous to death and his sickle that creeps in over time. The sharp, cutting sounds made by the alliteration “sickle’s compass come,” seems to cut through the line as time cuts away at physical appearance of human beings until beauty, and eventually life, is lost – yet love remains. Love remains much longer than “his brief hours and weeks,”(line 11); it resists change until the end of the world, or as Shakespeare puts it:” bears out until the edge of doom,”(line 12). The last of the series of quatrains ends without rhyme on the word “doom.” Leaving the end of the quatrain open without rhyme indicates it may be unfinished. Shakespeare may be suggesting that true love is eternal even beyond Doomsday with this lack of closure.The ending couplet acts to reinforce Shakespeare’s ideas by daring others to find what he says false. If he is proved wrong, Shakespeare is willing to admit “[He] never writ. And Man never loved.” (line 14) He is so sure of his definition of true love, that he compares it to the success of his own work. Some may see this as boastful, but he truly believes that there is no way he can be wrong and if he is, then everything he’s ever written is false since he based it off his interpretation of love. Furthermore, if Shakespeare is proven wrong about love, then he insists man do not love but instead have different feelings for their significant other since the classification of love does not fit his observations. Shakespeare is able to play merit to his advantage in order to persuade his audience as a closing argument.There are many forms of affection, but for Shakespeare the only true form of love has very distinct qualities. True love can withstand the tests of time, whether it is a small fight or a change in the way one’s lover looks. Love can also help one navigate through life by helping make hard decisions. To Shakespeare, true is real and attainable because it has been attained in the past. “[Let me not to the marriage of true minds]” defines what love is to Shakespeare and shares his experience for others to learn from.
In William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 147, the speaker addresses his beloved using a metaphor, stating that his love is like an illness. However, he longs for the thing that keeps him ill, or in love. The fact that he compares his love to an illness suggests that he knows his love is a bad idea, but he is defenseless against loving the subject. The ‘illness’ of love can also account for his distressed and crazed state of mind. In the first two quatrains, reason and love are personified as two opposing forces, love in the form of an illness and reason in the form of the speaker’s physician. However, while love is the negative force and reason is the positive force, the negative force of love appears to overpower the positive force of reason. By the end of the poem, the speaker is able to admit that the object of his affection is not good for him, although it is unclear whether or not this admission means he will leave her.In the first quatrain, the speaker presents his love as a disease that is feeding on his desires. The beloved is the one feeding it. Even still, the love is consuming him, “…longing still/ For that which longer nurseth the disease” (1-2) By using the metaphor of illness, the speaker shows that he knows loving the listener is a bad thing, as illnesses are detrimental to the health of those who suffer from them. This also indicates that he suffers from the love he has for his beloved, rather than enjoying it. However, rather than putting an end to it, he feeds it, allowing it to take over his thoughts and actions completely. He seems to be in a cycle in which he loves the listener, knows that it’s wrong, but is unable to separate himself from the relationship, instead feeding it and making it stronger. The fact that Shakespeare uses ‘fever’ in line 1 to describe the illness is fitting, as fevers cause one to act in a crazed, mad, and distressed manner. He expands on the metaphor of illness by stating that he ‘feeds’ on that which preserves his love, “The uncertain sickly appetite to please.” (4) This line breaks from the iambic pentameter, in that the word ‘feeding’ is trochaic. This emphasizes the fact that the love must be fed constantly. During illness, one’s appetite changes rapidly as one tries to find something that will satisfy him or her. The speaker, in this case, has found that his beloved pleases his ‘sickly appetite,’ no matter how ‘uncertain.’ The line could also reference lust and carnal desire. The speaker expands the metaphor in the second quatrain even further by comparing his Reason to his physician. Reason is the opposing force in the speaker. Just as love is shown in a negative light, Reason is the positive force. However, reason was given the impossible task of curing the speaker of his love. Reason gives the speaker instructions on how to overcome his love, but soon becomes ‘angry that his prescriptions are not kept’ (6) and leaves the speaker to his miserable love. The judgmental and logical side of the speaker cannot win against the passionate and romantic side, even though it is the positive force. The speaker goes on to say that ‘Desire is death, which physic did except.’ (8) The speaker could mean a variety of things by that statement. The first is that desire as he experiences is will bring about death, while Reason would prevent it. That continues with the metaphor, as desire is an illness and physicians prescribe medicine to counter it. However, in the lines previous, the speaker says that “Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,/[he] hath left me, and I desperate now approve/desire is death, which physic did except.” (6-8) The speaker is desperate now, without Reason. And in his desperation, he could be showing that he wishes to die, but Reason, his physician, will not allow him to do so. Also, if one looks at it from a sexual standpoint, it could be argued that the speaker is talking about a venereal disease, as an excess of desire could lead to a potentially fatal disease without medication.By the third quatrain, the speaker is severely disturbed, even acknowledging that he is ‘past cure.’ (9) His thoughts and words are like that of a patient in a fever, who has been declared by the physician to be incurable. This line is also irregular in that the first foot is trochaic. The speaker is emphasizing the fact that there is no cure for this love. No medicine or person can change his fate. It is a terminal affliction. However, he goes on to say that he doesn’t care that this love will be the end of him. Love has slowly eaten away at his sanity and driven away his Reason, so not even the logical side of him can care that this beloved will be the death of him. The next two lines are frantic and feverish, keeping with the theme of fever that was introduced at the start of the poem. “And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;/My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are” (10-11) As with fever patients, the speaker is speaking and writing like a madman. None of his thoughts or words are coherent. He cannot explain his infatuation with his beloved, only knowing it to be wrong. It holds with the saying “We are all fools in love.” This sonnet is proving the saying to be so. His writing is deteriorating from comparing his love to a fever to fully succumbing to that fever. His passion is turning him into a raving mad man, who is incapable of listening to reason. In the last line of the quatrain, the speaker admits that his words are straying erratically and irrationally from the truth, as they are spoken by someone so blinded by love that he can’t even see the truth anymore. Therefore his words are ‘vainly expressed.’ (12) They serve no purpose, as they’re nothing but extreme exaggerations, if not lies. The thoughts and words that he has toward his beloved are actually only things about the beloved that he’s objectified. The couplet gets to the heart of the matter, explaining just how he has strayed ‘at random from the truth vainly expressed.” (12) The speaker is able to admit that while he believed the beloved to be beautiful and bright, she is actually dark and evil. The most disturbing aspect of the couplet is that it’s completely unforgiving and cold. Throughout the course of the entire sonnet, the speaker has been expressing just how much he loves the listener, even though the beloved clearly isn’t good for him. However, in these lines, the speaker actually reveals why the beloved is bad for him. While he believed the beloved to be ‘fair’ and ‘bright,’ the beloved was actually ‘black’ and ‘dark.’ That comparison could mean several things. On a surface level, the speaker could mean that he thought the beloved to be beautiful, when in reality the beloved was unattractive. That would be enforced by the saying ‘love is blind.’ However, the comparison could go even deeper. The speaker not only calls the beloved ‘black’ and ‘dark,’ but “black as hell and dark as night.” (14) Dark and black are already common symbols for evil. Combined with the reference to Hell, the speaker could be implying that the beloved was unfaithful, immoral, and evil. However, because he was maddened by love, he could not see that and thought the beloved fair and bright. Fair and bright can also be seen as symbols for purity and goodness. So rather than being pure and good, the beloved was immoral and unfaithful to the speaker. However, the speaker does not give any indication that he plans to leave the beloved, even though he knows the beloved’s true nature. The speaker is a man who loves the listener so much that he is beyond caring about the beloved’s flaws. He knows that the flaws are there and that the beloved isn’t good for him, however he is beyond reason, so much that reason appears to have left him completely. However, he cannot forget his beloved’s flaws, acknowledging that the beloved is morally and possibly physically unattractive. The poem makes one think of the sayings ‘we are all fools in love’ and ‘love is blind,’ as the speaker is both a fool and blind in love. Ultimately, the speaker admits that being in love is detrimental and possibly dangerous to his health, however he cannot bring himself to leave his beloved.Works Cited:Shakespeare, William, and Alfred Harbage. “Sonnet 147.” The Pelican Shakespeare.Baltimore: Penguin, 1956. 152. Print.